Patrick Davidson (Mind Assault): ‘… Many South African metalheads do not see metal as industry’
Today we embark on a journey to South Africa. The ship is led by metal guitarist Patrick Davidson, who plays in Mind Assault, a melodic death metal based in Somerset West. The band has the potential to make a very catchy show given the fact that it incorporates some good blasts, traditional vocals, fair riffs and harmonious elements. In view of all this, if you lose yourself among the crowds at this year’s edition of the Rockstadt Extrem Fest, which is about to start, go and catch these guys on Sunday night at the second stage. Here is a very complex dialogue with Patrick Davidson, who will let you know more about his band. Since he has a thing for history and a great spirit of observation, this interview features a lot of information and a deep perspective on a dimension that is not very known to us, the Europeans. The popular culture has been sorting out things in a messy manner when it comes to many exotic places, but the internet should be a good weapon against this from now on. Anyways, this weapon is not likely to work that well, but in the meantime, have a look upon some great stories about the metalheads and the music scene in the South Africa, the ethnic conflicts, the violence of a troubled culture and at the same time, its tremendous beauty and diversity.
Metalfan: Hi, Patrick! Welcome to Metalfan! How do you feel today?
Patrick Davidson: Hi, Gina! The days are becoming so few before we begin our journey from deep in the Southern Hemisphere to the North, so I'm feeling very excited! It's winter here now, too, so besides getting to meet lots of cool people to headbang with, we're also looking forward to a few days of warm weather.
Metalfan: Tell me about your band… We know that Mind Assault formed around 2003… It started to play live about a year after that and it involves musicians living near Cape Town, South Africa. We know as well that it took a while to shape a constant line-up and that your single full-length was released in 2008, which looks like a compilation made with your most powerful songs created at that time. What was the thing which directed you to melodic death metal? What do you plan now and how do you describe your music for those who have no clue about it?
Patrick Davidson: Yes, we've been around for a while already. Ten years for a band of any genre in South Africa is a very long time to survive, and we have passed that mark already in 2014. We come from a town not too far from the famous tourist city of Cape Town, but being a bit removed from it, our band developed a little bit differently from most of the guys we've seen come and go.
When we met each other, we were not actually into the same styles of metal at all! I was into doom and gothic metal and my friend Donovan was trying to convert me to like nu-metal. It didn't work. We could not start a band together. But then we met our vocalist who enjoyed technical death metal and he was friends with the other guitarist, whose first love is mostly old-school stuff like Judas Priest. We were quite a mix up, but I think that helped us to become something that would interest people. At that time, there just weren’t other musicians in town who were our age group and interested in metal, so we were actually kind of forced into a band together. I remember feeling actually very reluctant in the beginning, but I look back and laugh at myself now.
But where most bands tend to take formation around a common interest where all members are inspired by the same international bands, we kind of had to take who we had right there in front of us and figure out how we were going to make it work, musically speaking. So we built a friendship first. The only problem was there was no drummer. So we asked a friend to help us out. He was actually a rock guitarist, but we knew that he had a drum kit and liked some thrash metal too, so we bought his soul with beer and he helped us to get this thing off the ground.
It took some time for us to find a style, naturally. Everybody was so different! What we are writing now sounds nothing like the earlier songs - stuff you probably won't find anywhere. [Ed. Note: laughs] But there began a shift from the more groove-orientated sound into something more melodic. Also, we eventually found a permanent drummer to join the band and his first love was black metal, so things got even more mixed up. By the time we started recording our first album “Stigma”, which, as you say, was more of a collection of songs that people liked at live shows, a lot of people were calling us melodic death metal. We were not sure if that was really true, but it's kind of stuck to us now. But our influences are SO diverse, so at times your traditional melo-death fans will definitely shake their heads with disapproval and other times will be a little more forgiving. We've got some serious thrash roots too. Although we all have our “first love” sub-genres, the original band members all grew up in the 80’s and 90’s and we're mostly all still here in the band.
Metalfan: It seems like there are not enough resources and means for an underground band to go in the studio and come up with a full-length or an EP every now and then in the place you are living in, but please correct me if I am wrong. In other places, unfortunately, lots of bands go and record new stuff just to have a new reason for making an international tour in order to earn some money or to have some fun when money is not possible. The official releases keep the things moving and the good part is that there are still some talented minds and great ideas among metal musicians. What is your opinion about the big metal industry on the one hand, and the bands that are not so renowned, on the other?
Patrick Davidson: Resources here are scarce! The biggest thing we are missing is actually knowledge. Our scene is very remote and isolated, and we don't have a lot of industry expertise. We are just too geographically and economically displaced from the main global metal scene to learn first-hand knowledge on how to build a strong industry or how to navigate an international industry. We do the best we can with what little we have - but when you talk about the big metal industry, we actually don't know much about it at all. The idea of a world tour for any African metal band is a distant dream. Even just a chance to play outside our own country is a cause for a big celebration here.
However, if I am to understand your question and come to the point, we have a great metal community here. We don't have much, but what we do have is precious to us. Because of our circumstances here, I believe that many South African metalheads do not see metal as “industry”. We see it more as a sub-culture and lifestyle choice. Most of us I think are quite sincere about what the music and ideals of the “brotherhood without borders” mean to us, and money is not a motivating force. We would say we are saddened when we see “products” rather than raw human expression. I mean don't gt me wrong - we all like a good sounding album with nice crisp production - but it has to have soul! For that, there will always be a nice underground scene all around the world for us to enjoy. [Ed. Note: laughs]
Metalfan: How did you learn guitar and when did you discover this instrument? Was there a teacher or are you a self-taught? Who are the guitar players that influence you the most?
Patrick Davidson: I'm a lousy guitarist! I went for two lessons when I was a teenager and asked the guy how I can palm-mute, pull off a pinch-harmonic, and to show me how to play fast on the right hand. But when I saw an electric guitar on television for the first time as a child, I knew right away that I needed to have one. As for influence, I have to say my personal idols are Greg Mackintosh from Paradise Lost and Johan Söderberg of Amon Amarth. These guys create a happiness for me which is uncomplicated, but elegant and effective. Then, there are the guys I play with! François Pretorius, co-founding member of the band, and Ryan Eberlin who now performs live in his place… I think I'm their biggest fan.
Metalfan: A great amount of European and American metal fans have been fascinated to discover great names coming from those places that are taken as being pretty exotic. For instance, the Southeast Asia is an interesting ground regarding this matter. Black metal cult figures like Dry, or some great death metal heads as Rotten Corpse or Death Vomit, all of them coming from Indonesia and getting into this crazy world about 20 years ago, have attracted a lot of attention. Singapore provides even a more complex realm of brutality and among the instances are the adorable grinders of Wormrot, the mystical Rudra or the black’s creatures of Impiety. It is somehow easy to put away these places according to the orientations of the metal fans and the most popular genres performed there. Regarding South Africa, there are not so many bands coming in my mind at the moment, besides Cauterized, let’s say, which moved to Copenhagen at one point. Since we don’t know much about the metal manifestations in your country of origin, please tell us more. What tendencies did you observe regarding the musical genres and the concepts used in South Africa?
Patrick Davidson: If I had to be honest, I would say that South African metal as a movement still needs to develop a stronger identity of its own. We actually have a lot of bands here, and many of them are really excellent musicians and performers... But most sound very global. We've got bands playing just about any sub-genre you can list. Not always a lot of them, and sometimes not even great; yet it is all here. It is not often that you listen to a band here and think to yourself, “wow! I never heard something like this before”. One which impressed most of us is called Ill System. They play nu-metal with an African twist, bringing in African drum rhythms and percussion, plus the occasional reggae riff. Another one is Wildernessking that does a sort of post-metal/black hybrid which is actually sounding quite unique to me, and they're making a good impression abroad without using any sort of “African” bait. There are a couple more that are developing nicely.
Mind Assault was probably the first band to write metal songs in the Afrikaans language that were meant as more than just good humour, but to embrace the language and culture as a very real part of our musical identity. I remember the day we decided that, even before the band was started - when we were still deciding if we wanted a band. We were watching some local guys at our favourite pub, and the vocalist was using an American accent. At the time, that just seemed silly. It got us thinking. We agreed that we wanted to be a band that could be identified as South African. In fact, that was probably the defining point where we decided to actually begin. It felt like there was a good enough reason too.
Metalfan: I noticed that more and more bands are brought into existence these days in South Africa and I learned that there is also quite some activity with a few metal festivals. But basically I don’t know much, so tell me something about these happenings. Since you have played for a couple of times at local events, how do you describe the atmosphere and the crowds?
Patrick Davidson: South Africa is a very small metal scene, but it is intimate. I love it! I'm involved in running one of the local events here which happens two times in a year. We always have the balancing trick between putting on a great show and somehow managing to pay the bills - it gets scary at times to make that work, but we've managed to pull through ten years this year. However, in all those years, we have not really seen the number of attendance grow all that much. It's got its ups and downs, but mostly is quite consistent, with very loyal followers supporting local metal. I mean it when I say I love it - I mean that I love these people! I think of them as a sort of family. The atmosphere is always very festive, like a big reunion party, and I think that is because our opportunities to come together and celebrate our sub-culture are so scarce. Although we don't make a business out of doing our shows, the reward is in seeing a community come together and standing for itself.
Since around 2012, we've seen a couple of players come onto the scene, who are willing to put some money forward to bring international entertainment. This gained quite a bit of momentum since, but we'll have to see how long our economy can keep it up. The ZAR is not a strong currency, and paying for entertainment in USD or EURO can get a bit rough! Most people here cannot afford to attend a show with an international act every month. Many could never afford it. The visitors from abroad have certainly looked like they enjoyed coming here though, even though the shows are quite small. I think for them it is quite a unique experience from their regular routes. Kudos to the people who have been making this happen!
Metalfan: How are the rock and metal fans perceived in your society? Perhaps, they are believed to represent something which is out of the ordinary, or people just mind their own business. I am asking these things because I know that your place gathers people from all over the planet and so it is since long ago. That is why I am wondering how things go when it comes to such varied mindsets.
Patrick Davidson: Our society at a national level is very complex. There is a number of “sub-groups” of South Africans, because this country consists of so many migrants as well as indigenous cultures. We also had a history of harsh segregation along racial lines, which ended only in 1994. A lot of problems still remain though, because the memory of those days is still strong.
That being said, I have Metal friends who come from most of these sub-groups, and in each of their cultures and social norms, Metal is regarded with suspicion, although often for different reasons. On the one hand, you have a group of people who are very afraid of what Metal represents because the ideals conflict with their religious beliefs. Then some of my friends of a different colour skin tell me that the biggest problems their families have with them listening to metal is because it is adopting too much culture that is foreign to Africa, for example.
But our national constitution is clear on the matter: every South African citizen is entitled to the freedom to headbang if they choose do so. [Ed. Note: smiles] In 2014, Mind Assault was supporting Lamb Of God for their tour here. It was only one show in Cape Town and one show in Johannesburg, but the Johannesburg show attracted some trouble from a local religious group. We saw that a number of protesters had gathered - peacefully, yes - but the police were there to make sure that they did not attempt disrupt the show in any meaningful way. I thought that was kind of cool. It's not always a happy ending though. In our earlier years we had a show cancelled because of interference by a local religious group. Although it was not lawful for them to do, they were able to intimidate a local venue owner to find some excuse to cancel the gig for that weekend. Sometimes they realise that the expense of legal action will be bigger than what can get made from a show, and so they take a chance and win. There will always be this battle between “The Good and The Evil”, but which one is which? I suppose it depends on which side you are standing.
Metalfan: What kind of feedback did Mind Assault get from abroad so far?
Patrick Davidson: We've had people from all sorts of places get in touch. It always feels good to pack up an album or a T-shirt (or usually a bundle) to ship abroad. We have no international deals or support structures, so we do it ourselves and it's great to make that personal contact. I think the fans enjoy that too.
In terms of fun stuff, you were talking about Southeast Asia before - we know we've got some great fans in Indonesia. They made a fan video of one of our songs with some ancient Asian battle scene - not a Hollywood film. It was very unexpected at the time we learned this, but we'd like to get out that way some day.
Another unexpected fan was on the day we were shooting our music video for the song “True Force”, President Obama was in South Africa for a diplomatic visit. Our video was an open-air shoot and alongside one of the major motorways out of the city centre. Anyway, the US Secret Service came to see that we were not up to any kind of mischief. We had a few laughs, between them checking for explosives under our cars or machine guns hidden in our guitar cases, but a few days later we got a cool message from the guy who led the inspection, just giving our band a general “fuck yeah”. Apparently he also plays drums.
Metalfan: It looks like all members of Mind Assault have European features, but I assume that you or most of you were born and raised in South Africa. What is your story and how is your living there? What do you, guys do for a living and what are your other preoccupations besides music?
Patrick Davidson: Yes, we are all born and bred South African. This often surprises people. I've only been to Europe on one previous visit, attending a metal festival. Every time people wanted to know where I am from because of my strange accent, they would look at me with doubt when I told them. The answer is always “ah, we didn't expect you to look like you do”. Fair enough! Yet South Africa has got the largest Caucasian population in Africa at around five million, and we've been growing and developing a unique national culture here for hundreds of years.
Of course, our country's political history also plays a role in why we are all Caucasian. Up until 1994, the government had very harsh policies in place which prevented different racial groups from interacting as equals. Today, things are gradually balancing out, but with still a long way to go. With heavy metal, we see more and more ethnic Africans getting involved, although they are all from the younger generation who have little or no memory of the past. We in the band were also very young in those days, but I do have some memories unfortunately. We are very happy that Metal music has a role to play in building a bridge between cultures, although it's a narrow bridge where only a few can pass at a time - we hope to eventually build it wider.
As for living, our band has got rich and poor. South Africa is famous for being a very unequal society - an old problem! It used to be in favour of White people only, but now it is more about capitalist and corporate culture. The new government has not really changed anything there. The only difference is that now the super-rich include some Black people, and the super-poor now include some White people. There is a clash of ideals between people now, and it's not a simple matter of skin colour anymore (although the politicians will try to say it is, but more about that in our song lyrics). It's about moral choices and personal desire. The guys with money in this band have a good point: no money, no band. The poor guys have another good point: no conscience, no soul worthy of expressing. We try to find a balance point and use the conflict to write even more interesting music and to tell a story from more than one angle. We probably vote for different political parties though… Except the Anarchist who thinks the others are losers for voting at all!
The richest guy in the band sells printing equipment. He's good at what he does. Even when we were at the Romanian Consulate here in Cape Town to get our visas, I was having a good laugh to myself when I realized the lady helping him was getting quotes for printers. Meanwhile, I had to try to explain to the guy helping me how a freelance “Jack-of-all-trades” manages to get paid!
Metalfan: In our country, Romania, the internet was out of the questions in the 90’s for the common people, while in the early 2000’s it was still a rare privilege to use it, although from one point one could go to an Internet café and research whatever was needed. The metal fans were spreading news related to music inside groups that were more or less big, while the idea of a Media entity dedicated to this type of music was kind of abstract. Anyways, there were a few sources and some shops providing bootlegs and all sorts of materials, but nothing too fancy. Nonetheless, those were interesting times and there was a certain respect for music. About 15 years ago, the internet became a normal thing in our society. This brought more knowledge, which was awesome, but things became chaotic gradually. Today, new bands and concepts come out and some of the musicians consider that their projects must get big from the very first start and thus, a lot of frustrations and misconceptions develop in this dimension. Others simply make the music they desire to hear, but many of them don’t get noticed if they don’t make such a noise. I’ve read that in South Africa metal music is not promoted beyond the boundaries of the internet. How does the social Media influence the musicians and fans in your place?
Patrick Davidson: This is a great question and a great observation on your part. What you describe about Romania seems pretty much the same as here as far as internet goes, and how it has changed the mindset towards music.
I have a lot of respect for my fellow South African bands - particularly the ones who pursue underground music. None of us has much hope of a career in making the music we love and putting bread on the table from it. I often describe to younger musicians in the scene that, as artists, we are in fact “patrons of the arts”. In other words, if we want this culture to exist here, we need to finance ourselves as the artists in order to create the art. We cannot always rely on the public for that. But you are right. A lot of times in recent years I have got the impression that people have created the online profile even before they created the band. There is a generation here that thinks you can live in a house before you built it! It is a way of thinking that does not resonate with me. Maybe I'm just giving away my age. I often find myself irritated by this phenomenon because I've seen some of the best bands in terms of song-writing ability, entertainment value and stage craft - because they are not wired into the web, they are sidelined by a lot of glitter and glamour which is, more often than not, really not all that good.
On the other hand, Iron Maiden said it in 2000 already that we're living in a “Brave New World”. The youth of today don't give a shit that the older generation is dragging feet. They're young, full of energy, and excited about life! The technological advancements afford them a lot of opportunity we could not have dreamed of when we were at that point in our lives and musical careers… And when I'm not irritated by poor quality music, I'm actually glad to see some of the pioneering methods being used. I consider myself a student of life. There are lessons to be had in everything, and I'm watching with great interest. I may never become an expert in these things, or even modestly good at it, but I can admire the ingenuity of it and the effort put in. Our band's name, after all, is Mind Assault. Any subject that concerns mass manipulation of people's perception of things is incredibly interesting to us. The symbol of psychology - the greek “psi” - is even a part of our logo.
In South Africa, there is a band currently that is doing massive online promotion, and they're doing it globally. Check out Vulvodynia. We played with them not too long ago and it was a pleasant experience; them, the young generation and we, the old, sharing information and ideas together. These guys were a force on the internet before they were a physical band. But having built the reason to exist, they've now also assembled a group of musicians who have got the chops to deliver live what they promised in the “virtual” realm. What will be interesting to me, however, is to see how far they can take this. I don't mean any offense to the guys by saying so, but as writers of music, these are early days and they're fortunate enough to find themselves at the leading edge of a youth trend. We've seen the rise and fall of youth trends many times in our own long years as a band, so I look forward to watching how these guys evolve into a song-writing style that relies less on the current subject material and sheer brutality for fans to get their kicks and into the realm of timeless music. I might swallow those words later, but either way I'll be satisfied to have learned something. From what I've seen on the Rockstadt Extreme Fest line-up, maybe it's not too long until these guys end up there too.
As for Mind Assault, we're old school. We still print g-strings and beer mats… Although I was very impressed to see Vulvodynia producing mousepads and coffee mugs… Definitely a different generation! [Ed. Note: winks]
Metalfan: I see that Mind Assault’s lyrics are mostly in English and it seems that there is a message against political and corporate matters. Anyways, in my view the politics and the corporate system are one and the same problem. Who writes the lyrics and what do you, guys aim to convey with your music? Then again, some of your songs are in written in an African language. What dialect is that and what can you tell us about it?
Patrick Davidson: Yes, well let’s get started with the “Afrikaans” language. It is classified an African language because it was developed here, particularly between the many nations of European settlers and an ethnic group known today as “Coloureds” that is in fact made up of a number of smaller groups also including Creole, Asiatic and Middle-Eastern migrants as well as a large portion of original Africans, which for simplicity we will call broadly the Khoi-San. They are not the same as the Bantusan tribes which are otherwise referred to as “Blacks” who historically populated much greater parts of the East of the country than where the settlers landed in the South-West. The majority of this non-“White”, or Coloured group also speak Afrikaans as their home language, as do the majority of the Whites. But the language is very strongly derivative of Dutch. The Dutch were the first Europeans to permanently settle at the tip of Africa. In those days, the Dutch brought the first Asiatic population at the same time as a labour force, which is how the local indigenous people learned it, and then came the English, The French, and eventually with the gold rush years, the rest of the world too, along with our own bunch of wars. The language quickly evolved from “Kitchen Dutch” into its own academically recognized Afrikaans.
Now, if that short history lesson does not already give you a full album’s worth of lyrical inspiration, then the politics and infiltration of corporate culture into this beautiful land's soul certainly can! We will agree very wholeheartedly with your theory of politics and corporate being the same problem. Good people all over the world get good ideas, and then bad people take those good ideas and manipulate them to serve selfish needs. So it's more about human nature - the battle within each of us - the fight between “The Ego” and “The Self”. Every conflict results in a spiritual, intellectual, and then physical war. And by “spiritual”, I don't necessarily mean religious, but rather a sense of internalised values (often, but not always the result of religion).
What is certain in our view, and a growing consciousness seems to rising in the world, is that the man-made systems which held this current civilization together are likely the same ones which will tear it to dust. We are currently living in the sixth great civilization known to archaeologists. What circumstances led to the destruction of the previous five? The lust for power and human greed can be measured in all of them. Of course, for the powers that be, they want to keep the world blind - need to keep the world blind - because it is through fear and ignorance that they can keep this delicate tower standing. So they need control of our minds, and they will achieve this through violent means if need be. A mental assault... A Mind Assault! An example of this can be found with our 2014 demo release of “New World Disorder”.
Of course, we don't deal only with that. Sometimes we write about more personal things. Not to try and alarm the tourists, but Africa can be a dangerous place if you miss your turn on the wrong road. Sometimes the wrong turn comes to you too. There are many conflicts of ideals here, and there is a culture of violence. Massive parts of the population living today are actually quite traumatized, apparently, according to statistics. Each of us as individuals have endured our fair share of traumas and other mental assaults. Sometimes we like to vent that out of us in a way that feels... Relieving… Aggressive! Discharging negative energy out of ourselves through expressing it in a way that is not deliberately harmful… That's what makes being a metal band so great. Our audiences understand that and take something deep and personal from it. Those who don't understand - well, we can't help them, unfortunately. But an example of this would be a nine-minute epic, “Revenge” from our 2008 “Stigma” release.
Lyrics are often a team effort. Our vocalist, Jacques, is obviously the main man here. We have found that his expression in his own first language can be particularly powerful. Donovan on bass is our second largest contributor, although he sticks with English, and then François on lead guitar has put his fair share forward too. We're still waiting to see if Ryan or Andries have some hidden talent. I've personally only put full lyrics to one song, another nine-minute epic on our 2011 “Metal Rites” EP - the title track, in fact.
Metalfan: Is one of you in the band that makes the artwork covers for your demos and other releases? Or is a friend of yours? I found the cover of the “Metal Rites” EP pretty interesting. What can you tell me about it and what is your favorite style in terms of metal imagery?
Patrick Davidson: Yes and no. We've never actually commissioned an artwork from a professional, if that answers the question - so it's both where we have done some, and friends have done some. One of the disadvantages of living in Africa is that getting an international standard professional onto a job costs more money than we can afford to part with. There is a culture here of DIY. In the case of “Metal Rites”, that artwork was done by our vocalist, Jacques. It kind of portrays the cycle of life and death, but in Africa. Maybe it's a bit abstract. But it includes the mummified faces - a rich African culture - which symbolizes the quest for eternal life. Then in the same image, there is this tiny African kid holding a handful of ammunition. It's kind of ironic.
In terms of a favourite style, I think all of us band members have a different view. For me, I like something conceptual that has a story behind it, and possibly more meanings than one. My favourite thing to do when I have spare time is to go on a hike - preferably one where there is an overnight camp - and to take a flask of whiskey and somebody to share it with. Then we will discuss at length the matters of metal music and art and try to decipher the mysteries of the universe. I like an artwork which inspires such an outing.
Metalfan: There is a funny aspect which appears in the entire metal world when it comes to the lyrical themes, especially in the black metal area. There are so many bands praising the Scandinavian mythologies due to the fact that black metal emerged from those Northern places. The funny thing comes when you find bands in the hottest Eastern parts singing about the Norwegian coldness, for instance. Many bands coming from the so-called undeveloped countries are driven to ignore their culture and deny it as if it was something to be ashamed of. But there is no reason to be ashamed of such things and now, I’m asking your opinion on this. Do you believe that it is necessary to keep the same trends in musical and lyrical themes instead of doings things in our own way?
Patrick Davidson: This also puzzles me, but I think I can understand why it happens. I've lived my whole life in a place like that - far from the “reality” which the music describes or the connection that the people making it feel with their own land and culture. I think that for many of us, fans who live in such places, we realize that we may never see or experience such a band with our own eyes and ears. But we WANT that experience so we emulate it. Then we realize that other people also want that experience, and so a local following emerges. For example, I had a fun side project with some work colleagues; we made an Amon Amarth tribute band. This began in 2010 before we started getting international bands visiting here. We only played a couple of shows, but we literally picked up a small following at the first one. The vocalist even met his wife and mother of his children at that show! We thought we'd never see the real Amon Amarth and so did they, so we settled for the next best thing. Of course, the copycat lifestyle is glamorous, but short. Such bands are not in control of their own destiny, but I think so many do it and stick with it because they get used to the acclaim of being measured “up there” with their own heroes. Sadly though, they will always only ever exist in the shadows of their heroes too.
And then you invited my opinion (uh-oh!). I say, what is the point of being Metal if you're only going to exist to follow a trend? I mean, fine, there are the basic building blocks of what makes Metal, well, you know... Metal. Distortion on guitars, double-kick drums, over-emphasised power on vocals, etc…. But in terms of themes, no ways! A copycat will never be more than just a copycat. Music is such a vast realm to explore. So explore it. Sometimes we get the elitist sort of guys come to our shows, and we appreciate their presence of course, and it's cool to see them come and headbang to one song. Then sometimes afterwards they will come to chat and they ask “when are you going to write another song like …?” - the same one they headbanged to, obviously. Now, they're asking about that one song because somewhere, somehow, we plucked a heartstring for them in the creation of that song, which gave them the impression that this is the sort of band we are aspiring to become. We've actually had a few guys turn a shoulder on us when we said it was not, and we don't know if there will ever be a song like that again. They don't always understand that we're not closing a door on the possibility, but we don't want to push into an area where it's just not us. If by chance it comes again, then that's great! If we never do something like that again, but touch on something new and exciting, then that's great! I think a lot of bands, musicians, entertainers limit their potential and creativity by trying to stick too hard to one set style. But if it gives them the street credit with the elitists, then I can't begrudge them that.
P.S.: I don't dislike the elitists! I think we all have a little of that in us, some of us just bury it deeper than others. [Ed. Note: smiles] I feel very proud to receive a compliment from such a person. An insult?! Well, we've had to learn to ignore those, else this band would have ended in 2004.
Metalfan: I am currently reading a collection of fairy tales and short novels from various regions in the Africa. There are beautiful images, tons of mythical monsters and useful moralizations, motifs and themes that can be found in so many works of folk literature from all around the world. However, I must confess that some stories made me sense a sort of a particular evil, while the writings made after the Islamic beliefs got into some African territories depict a wicked psychology. The thing is that the myths and legends are extremely rich and captivating. What can you tell me about the African folklore? What are your favorite parts when it comes to such thing and how do people approach the mythical concepts in general?
Patrick Davidson: Africa is EPIC!!! Mermaids, ghosts and goblins... There is such a rich culture here to explore, and I wish more bands would focus on the folklore. In a way, Mind Assault's bed is already made, so-to-speak, so it's not a subject we would probably delve too deeply into. However, there is a band from our neighbouring country of Botswana called Skinflint. They're locked in a time capsule of 80's metal, but their whole vibe is what you describe here. Check them out! You will get more of this obviously where you find more Black people playing in the bands, or in the more Northern parts where the people with Arab/Islamic heritage live, as you say. In a way, us as White people, it fascinates us, but it is not us, if you catch my meaning. We love to explore it, but is it our right to express it without being disrespectful of the Peoples and Cultures it belongs to? As artists, we need to know that we can do justice. So we as Mind Assault focus on more tangible affairs of Africa - the not-so-folklore issues, but real and measurable. For example, we have a song called “Dark Continent” based on the name given to Africa in the days of early European exploration, for its mystery and beauty. I'll give anybody interested to see us play a good piece of advice - don't miss the intro for our set! Yes, yes, I also want to watch Insomnium right up till the last song, but I can't. Come and share my pain, and then we will make it up to you. [Ed. Note: winks]
Metalfan: Your first appearance on a non-African scene will take place pretty soon and it’s set to happen in Romania, during the Rockstadt Extreme Festival. What do you know about this place and event? I believe that you have noticed already that the line-up of Rockstadt Extreme Fest is pretty diverse and involves many types of acts. Which band would you like to see and hear at this festival?
Patrick Davidson: Romania is as mysterious and exciting to us as we hope Africa is to you! This opportunity came around for us by pleasing the right person with our live show, and we owe our thanks to Wrath Inc and Rockstadt Extreme Fest both for having the belief in us. From a financial point of view, we never thought we'd ever see Europe as a band. Some of us have visited. I was there once in 2012 only, but a little farther West in Slovenia. I'm dying to come back to see more places, and to do it with the band is a dream come true.
So, what do we know about Romania? VAMPIRES!! Just kidding… [Ed. Note: laughs]
Personally, I'm a big lover of history. When the band goes home, I'll be staying on for another week and heading up to the Maramureș region. I would have liked to travel the whole country, and Bulgaria too, but finances allow only a limited experience and I felt that it would be best used for my personal interests up there. It sounds like the way of life for the people living there has been well-preserved and that it is naturally very beautiful. I hope they don't mind metalheads.
We also know about the Colectiv tragedy. I cannot imagine what an impact that something of that scale must have on a community if yours is anything like ours! We have dealt with our fair share of loss here, but that news travelled and touched metalheads all around the world, even to here on the distant tip of Africa. It would be an honour to pay homage to our distant metal family.
As for the festival, it looks amazing! We've played a lot of open air festivals here in South Africa, but usually as one of only a couple of metal acts, so it'll be great to come and experience a place where everybody is a metalhead. I'm sure once we get there and feel the vibe, it'll be like coming “home”, or like to a cousin's house. My highlight bands will be My Dying Bride (bucketlist: check), and then Insomnium and Soilwork are also a very big feature for me. I'm only a little disappointed that our timeslot is right between those two bands, because on the one side it feels like a great honour even though many people will probably miss us because of it, but on the other side I will also miss big parts of their set, and that suck.
I'll also be paying a lot of attention to the local Romanian bands. I've found Definite Rock radio station and have been listening to it for days. I think each of my band mates will all find something different that they are most excited about, though, if you look back at what I said about us at the beginning of the interview. We still have very different taste in music, even after all these years.
Metalfan: Well, it seems like we are done with this. I wish you to have a lot of fun at the Rockstadt Extreme Fest! From my experience as a fan, I can tell that the festival takes place in a very nice environment and it’s impossible not to feel good there. If you feel that you want to tell us more things or to mention something in particular, be our guest! Thank you for answering our questions!
Patrick Davidson: Gina, thanks so much for taking the time to find out more about Mind Assault and where we come from. I'm sure we'll fit right in at Rockstadt. Can't wait to see what kind of people we will meet and to learn a few Romanian profanities to bring home. We hope that this first time playing off African soil will be as pleasurable for those who experience it with us as it promises to be for us. Mind Assault plays on Second Stage at 22h00 Sunday night.
Photo Credits: © John D Image Resources, Fiend Arts, © Vetman Design & Photography, Jurie Neethling, Dewald Denton-Dino, © Henry Engelbrecht
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